Constance, I want to tell you about a friend of mine, and here is the amazing thing to me: she is a friend because she simply chose to be and began treating me like I was her friend! That is a very very different experience for me, and has happened to me precisely once before (you know who you are, Tortoise).
Oh, Alli and I are not “super duper besties” or anything like that…we live several miles apart, our lives and schedules do not really overlap…but they intersect at the crucial point of history and that is the Incarnation of God and all that entails.
They also intersect at the place of her total and complete commitment to live out her convictions in truth and with skin on…or to gussy it up with theology, Alli seeks to become a “little incarnation”, a true christian. And in that sense, we are truly related, truly sisters for this is my aspiration as well.
I really am touched by her offerings of simple and open faced acceptance, because my usual experience is that people cross paths with me and find some outward thing about me to become fascinated with or interested in, one of the many facets of the being I have been created with…but then they get a little deeper and they are chilled by the gaping wounds, the flaws, the fears and uncertainties…and there is sort of a veering away.
That is not Alli…I love that her understanding of the Incarnation is inclusive! All my flaws and failures and fallings-short are in her eyes the very qualifiers that give her hope and courage and a sense of kindredness, and that leaves me utterly hopeful and amazed…and very very glad. Oh…and I hope you are okay with my giving you a lil pet name, Alli…if you aren’t please tell me? It delights me to give heart names to people that I love.
Why am I highlighting her right now?
Because I want to use her example as a concrete way to be a trans-ally, as a blue-print for how you, Constance, can emulate her as she emulates Jesus and touch the hearts of those around you, trans, cis, whomever.
Now: below, you will find the Facebook Posting that Alli made on Trans-Visibility Day, and the resultant conversation, which I will comment on a bit. I am going to go ahead and let the links stand…I figure if you are out enough to be on Facebook, you won’t have a problem being here on Grace Notes, and if you are on Alli’s page, then the content here at Grace Notes should be quite consonant with your own tastes in media.
Please let me know ASAP if you do not want to be up in this post! I will edit it immediately upon seeing your note (unless I am away from my computer and need to get to it).
Okay…there are several things that are said below. Alli’s words appear first, and I want to state for the record that though she says “cis” means Comfortable In Skin when it is actually a Latin prefix of some obscure and awkward usage (I mean, really Constance…doesn’t it feel sorta alien to be referred to as “cis”? Sorta like how awkward it feels to be called “trans”, yeah?), even though she got the technical denotation “wrong”…
…she absolutely totally nailed the heart of it! That’s just sorta how my friend rolls…she gets to the heart, and then she brings it medicine!
Comfortable In Skin: wow. That is such a great way of putting it, and I am henceforth going to think of that each time I use that old dry Latin prefix that is used because in the binary, we still lack the language to express the realities that have been excluded.
Next, I want to talk a bit about the concerns that come up and the struggle that all of us (including transgender people and trans-allies too) have in the binary, in figuring out how to broaden our tents and walk out the words of Isaiah 61. Specifically, in the area of trying to go to the bathroom.
*sigh* *Charissa feels old, tired, and teary*
First of all, let me say I perceive that behind a lot of the concerns are hearts that are true, generous, and truly care. Okay? That’s a given, for love and compassion wreathes those words and is indeed fragrant.
But I do want to address what I think is nearly always the underlying factor in these sorts of matters, when we are encountering other human beings who seem so different from us initially and then emerge as beings exactly like us on the inside.
That operative factor is simple ignorance. And do not feel demeaned by being called ignorant. All of us are ignorant over some things and in some ways. Ignorance is simply this: lack of knowledge. Lack of education. Lack of common identity and connection.
Ignorance is the most volatile state any person can be in, because when we are ignorant we are in our most impressionable place and at the mercy of whatever passions or persons seek to exploit that state! Ignorance is the beginning of wisdom for those in the hands of true shepherds of the soul (like Alli)…and it is the beginning of national genocide in other rougher, bloody hands.
I shall proceed: starting with more abstract principles and working to the concrete.
Neutrally gendered bathrooms are the ideal. Period. Will there still be some freaks and perverts who seek to exploit those areas for their own evil, sick and twisted purposes? Yeah…but as a function of their broken, fallen, sick and twisted souls…not as a function of gender orientation!
With just a little bit of thought and planning bathrooms could be made in such a way that the whole issue becomes moot: someone uses the bathroom because their bodies are designed to eliminate waste products, and that is the simple and gentle truth.
But: in our world, bathrooms are indeed gendered, reflections of our binary view of gender, which defines what you are and who you are gender-wise by what you are and who you are DNA wise!
Thus, the concern of a person being in a bathroom who is “physically” a man/woman is actually not a very meaningful term. Because walking around inside a male body, I see the world with a woman’s eyes, a woman’s heart, a woman’s soul! And it is horror to me!
Every. Single. Agonizing. Second. To have gentle eyes and see my rough hands. To have fine, delicate heart and see my rough, crudely drawn face. To be neat and put together inside myself as smaller, quick and agile and yet see this oversized battering ram of a body.
It is a non-sequitur to fear the presence of a “physical man” in a female gendered bathroom if the person who inhabits that body is a woman! No man is present on the scene. Period. Further, it is cruel and unusual punishment to make that woman use the bathroom with men…and hear the things they do and say in those spaces (although the truth is there is not a lot of talk in bathrooms anyway, it is more locker rooms that can be a real nightmare).
“Cis”-woman: imagine if you were forced to use the “Men’s Bathroom”. You had to disrobe enough to go, you constantly were in agony that someone would recognize you when you were there and perhaps do you harm…not sexually, but violently, for invading their space! They do not smell very nice. They are not in the least adorned with anything pretty or elegant. They very often have crude and horrid graffiti on the stall walls.
Oh, and the real winner: you have to stand up side by side with some other person and go that way! With it all just right out there!! Ohh. Myy. GAWD.
“Cis”-man: I am giggling right now because I know you!! I have grown up with you and you are scratching your head and looking puzzled…what is the BFD you are thinking? You go in, whip it out, let it fly, give a big contented sigh, try to paint the entire urinal, try to dissolve the urine cake, splash off to the sides and think “Oh shit I missed”, feel a momentary flash of guilt as you recall the “We aim to please! You aim too, please!” signs, remind yourself that there are janitors who clean, console yourself with the notion that you are keeping them employed, give it a few shakes, and then maybe wash your hands, or not if you are of the school “my mama taught me not to piss on my hands” school…and then in either case swagger out without a backwards glance or a care in the world.
I won’t even talk about when you do the other number.
My point is this: Even though I present female full time, 100%, I am still a natal XY DNA’d person, and thus defined in our culture as biologically male…but my dear sisters, you literally never ever have to worry about me thinking any of those thoughts you fear! Because I am not like them! I am like you! I am not “physically a man”, but rather truly and in all ways but biology a woman, just like you. No, you have far more to fear from a sharp tongued critical woman who has her claws out to rip your appearance to shreds with faux-compliments than you have to fear from me!
When I go to the bathroom? I am thinking “Oh God, please let it be empty, please let it be empty!” I walk in quick, eyes averted and a small gentle smile that says “yeah I gotta go, so sorry for being human”, and I scurry to the stall that seems most unobtrusive. I immediately shut the door, and lock it and then give a small sigh of relief that I am “safe”. Then I take care of what my body must do…all the while listening, trying to feel the atmosphere of the room…can I safely wash without getting hurt or freaking anyone out? Can I maybe even brush my hair and give a close inspection of my makeup without getting mocked or attacked verbally (which is a lot like a flock of robins attacking a perceived threat! The wings hurt my eyes and the beaks draw blood). If yes, YAY! If not, then I get out fast the way I came in and use hand sanitizer short term and look for a place to properly wash up ASAP.
See why you have nothing to fear?
And that is not just me, by the way! Most all trans-people are just like me…just like most cis people are not freaks either. Trans people fall significantly outside the range of percentages of sexual predators compared to cis people. You have a far greater risk in the women’s bathroom of getting preyed on by another cis woman than you do a trans woman, and we both bear the same risk of there being a natal male freak in there to harm someone. He is in there because he is a freak.
And yes…it is indeed possible for a transgender person to be a freak…but the likelihood percentage wise is less than that of a cis-gender person being a freak…and get this:
the deviant state descends from being a broken fallen human creature, not from their gender orientation! Just as cis-gender people by far exist in greater percentages who are not sexual predators, so too do transgender people.
Secondly, the whole notion of the bathroom lurker is grossly over inflated compared to the actual incidences of occurrance. Oh yes, it happens…even once is far too much! But it is an easy boogey man to drag out when ignorance is being preyed on by the passion of fear and the pack wants to be safe from the unknown and thus uses whatever it can find in service of that goal…and that includes painting the picture of the “evil perverted sex maniac monster” who “dresses female to sneak in and lurk” etc etc.
I cannot tell you how deeply wounding it is to be told this to my face.
I cannot express my inner agony at being called a monster, a pervert, a deviant.
Yes, even the supportive statement that a “male person” presenting as a woman is there to use the restroom misses the true reality of who I am, because it still sees me as fundamentally male and denies that who I really am even exists!
I am not a male person. I am a female person…and I have been sent into this male body…and that is the crux of the way the Incarnation plays out thru my being, right there on the bloody rivet that nails me to this body…and I must take it in faith that it is for the Glory of God.
And the huge contradiction: how sneaky can I really be? If you have ever met me, you know my biology betrays me! I am not sneaking around about anything…that is NOT how I roll. I am open in who I am, how I am. In fact, I have been told that this open heartedness is both my greatest strength and my greatest weakness…because I assume that everyone else is like me and searching intently always for a way to bless the ones around me!
So really…what you need to do if you find yourself worried about a transwoman in the restroom is this: admit that you likely do not know a transwoman, and resolve to get to know one. Befriend one, or if you are uncomfortable with that, ask some people you know who do know a transwoman, and get introduced.
Hey…I am available. I do not have many friends, and almost no female ones, and I have a lifetime of loneliness to lose! And also years of imagining fun things to do! But even more than that, if you just want to know what it is like to be transgender, I am open and willing to talk and share.
Once you get to know a transwoman, you will forget that prefix and just know your woman friend.
Now the next thing that I wanted to touch on is the whole idea of forced presentation and conformity to the “laws” that society is currently steeped in. This one is hard.
This one is G Damned hard.
For me? I love presenting as who I have always been inside…but I hate my body. I hate the awful stubble and hair on my face…my size…the blunt bones of my face, the hulking ones of my arms and legs and feet and hands…and other things best left unsaid that I find just the worst.
But I know many transgender people who are truly and totally themselves as female and yet do not feel compelled to take any particular pains with their presentation for whatever reason…and that includes the clothes they wear, any concern whatsoever about the assigned gender of any clothing, and yes, even facial hair.
I also know many cis-gender women who have real facial hair problems: I met them at the clinic where I get laser treatments for my facial hair! They are there too, for the same reason, and feel the same shame and agony I do.
What if we lived in a world where we were not sized up, assessed, judged, based on these outward things?
See…we have learned to use these visual cues and do so now without thought, and without realizing that they come from a certain point of view regarding gender that is woefully incomplete and a prison to us all. There is another way…to see with the eyes of love and compassion. To trust the Holy Spirit in our hearts to give us discernment and understanding. And yes, to rule our passions in such a way that the whole sexuality imbalance in this culture of ours comes back underneath a proper moral and spiritual harness (but that is a whole ‘nother eleventy-dozen posts!).
Again…I get it. I do, and I try to do my part to blend, to make it easier. We are eating this elephant one bite at a time, and sometimes the more strident of us seek to shove the whole thing down throats. But you simply cannot ascertain the gender of someone with eyes alone. That is a fact.
One last thought to tie these things together: there is a movement afoot right now, where people who “pass” easily and without thought (I will write about that notion, passing…those people would be seen in the binary as the winner of the gene pool lottery for sure…that is so much more about their biology matching our preconceived notions than any great attribute of authenticity). Well what the movement does is has these people go into the bathroom of their assigned biology and take selfies there…with other people around who don’t know! And you can see how uncomfortable the other people are…because of how they have been taught to judge gender. Remember, they are looking at natal females who are transgender and totally truly male in the ladies room, and natal males who are transgender and thus totally female in the mens room.
It really makes the point well…because it is indeed ridiculous, these laws that want to dictate bathroom on the basis of biology (intersex people totally blow this whole thing out of the water.
Okay…Ima publish now…Alli, just thank you so much. Mike, thank you for being there for her, and for us all!
Alli, words cannot express the heart I have, the hope I have because of you in my life.
I am so looking forward to the garden we shall grow, God willing.
You may notice the change of photographs this morning. I was informed by several friends that today, March 31st, is Transgender Day of Visibility. This is different from days that honor trans people who have lost their lives, or people who have gone before us.
This is about honoring and recognizing that trans people exist – right here, and right now. They are not a joke. They are not predators. They are not doing it for attention. They just want to feel comfortable in their own skin (did you know that’s what the word “cis” means? C.I.S = Comfortable In Skin).
As people whose gender (what’s in your head) and sex (what’s in your pants) match up, we can’t begin to imagine what that feels like – to feel like your body isn’t the way it should be. But we CAN have compassion and treat people as we’d like to be treated: as individuals with worth, dignity, and pride.
Everyone deserves to use the bathroom that makes them most comfortable. Everyone deserves to wear clothes that make them feel attractive and confident. Everyone deserves to be counted as someone that matters.
If you need someone to talk to, I’m here to listen. If you need a bathroom buddy, I’ll go with you. If you need to vent about some jerk who said or did something cruel, I’ll rage with you. That’s what an ally does. That’s what a FRIEND does.
I want to be your friend, if you’ll have me. heart emoticon
- Courtney Anne Goodey I don’t really understand the bathroom argument. If a man were using a women’s restroom, I guess I could see some concern for his motives. But a trans woman? Probably just trying to pee. I don’t see any threat there.I appreciate you posting about trans issues. It is something I would like to support but feel very ignorant about. Keep on educating!
- Mike Katsufrakis As for the bathroom thing, I believe Linda was more saying that if you’re not outwardly presenting as a man/woman, things could get awkward fast. If I was a trans woman and walked into the ladies’ room with a giant beard, I’m not sure I’d have an argument I could make.
- Charissa White I have a lot of thoughts about Allison Katsufrakis post, too many to clutter up this space with.But just one thing to say: if other people had even one one thousandth of the heart she has, well the world would be so much better a place!I am humbled and astonished she would even give me the time of day, which she does… But that is nothing. She gives me completely normal, full agency as well. She actually sees ME.. My heart and soul. The joyous love she has for life also oozes her True compassion. This is not bs empty talk. I know.As to the concerns about bathrooms, those are almost instantly alleviated when you really get to know a Transgender person… But I will write more on that laters on my blog.Jus, Thx Alli… Ya did it again , made me feel good, and cry